Category Archives: School and Education

Different ways to model a pandemic

Numberphile: The Coronavirus Curve. (YouTube, 22:17min) “Ben Sparks explains (and codes) the so-called SIR Model being used to predict the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).”

I played along at home and created my own version with Geogebra, but you can also find Ben Sparks’s version here: SIR Model.

Be sure to also check out the links in the description of the video.

3Blue1Brown: Simulating an epidemic. (YouTube, 23:11min)

“While here we looked at what you might call an “agent-based” SIR model, if you want to see what it looks like as a set of differential equations, Ben Sparks just did a lovely video on the topic over at Numberphile [see above].

There are a few reasons I like the agent-based model here, for demo purposes at least. It’s a bit easier to understand for those who are not comfortable yet with ODEs, for one. It also conveys how things are not deterministic; no real-world curve will look as smooth as the differential equations. It also makes it way easier to ask questions and bake other assumptions into the model. Introducing things like travel or community centers into the differential equations would get very hairy very quickly. For those who want to go much more deeply into this, the Institute for Disease Modeling has a lot of models free for people to look at and play with.”

Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

Tomas Pueyo: Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance. “What the Next 18 Months Can Look Like, if Leaders Buy Us Time”. (March 19, 2020)

Here’s the Epidemic Calculator that is being used in the article.

Older article by the same author: Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now. “Politicians, Community Leaders and Business Leaders: What Should You Do and When?” (March 10, 2020)

Deutsche Übersetzung: Coronavirus: Warum du jetzt handeln musst!.

Here in Germany all schools and daycare facilities have been closed for one week already and will remain so for at least the next four weeks.

Our state and our county have issued a general decree, imposing the following rules starting last night at midnight: All public places are closed, including roads. People are not allowed to leave their houses except to go to work, or to the doctor, or to shop for essential groceries. Gatherings of more than five people are prohibited. However, you are still allowed to go for walks by yourself or with people living in your own household if you keep at least two metres (six feet) of distance to other people. The decree is in effect for at least two weeks. (Our county shares a border with the Grand-Est region of France to the South, which has been declared an international risk area.)

“Better safe than sorry.”

The New York Times Opinion: Coronavirus School Closings: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late. “History teaches us that keeping children at home early in an outbreak can save lives.” By Howard Markel. “Dr. Markel studies the history of pandemics. … [He] is the director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and a professor of pediatrics.”

“Schools are community gathering places where large numbers of people are in proximity to one another and respiratory infections can easily spread among young people and adults alike. Shutting them down can be a key part of slowing the spread of easily transmissible viruses so that hospitals are not overrun with sick people, and it can help to buy time to allow for the development of antiviral medications, medical treatments or a vaccine.

But policymakers working to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 should remember a key part of this historically informed equation: We can’t wait until it’s too late.

Communities in the United States must shut down schools before, not after, the outbreak becomes widespread here. “Widespread” is admittedly an imprecise term, but I use it to describe a situation in which there are multiple cases throughout a town or state and more cases with each passing day.”

Link via MetaFilter.